Intertidal land use bill stirs debate in the Maine House

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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - A long debate on the Maine House floor Monday on a bill regarding intertidal land use ended with a slim margin vote.

Just one vote was the deciding factor in passing a bill aimed at expanding public use of intertidal land in law.

It would give people the right to use most intertidal lands for recreational purposes as well as commercial purposes like seaweed harvesting and aquaculture.

Supporters say it's important for the public to be able to use that land.

"This is a bill that I didn't feel like infringed on landowners rights," said Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor. "Those rights are still protected -- the rights to wharf out or whatnot. What it does is expand the rights of the public to walk along the beach and perform activities that Mainers have always traditionally done."

Opponents say it takes property owners' land away from them and gives it to the state.

"Essentially what the bill would do is take away the rights of property owners who live along the coast, that currently they own and they paid for land that extends to the low water mark, and there are a couple exemptions to what's permissible activity in there," said Assistant House Republican Leader Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle. "But that would now be taken away under this bill and be given to the state of Maine."

The bill was heavily opposed in the Senate so now the chambers will have to vote again.